I’ve just submitted the final text and illustrations to the designer for my next Social Age Guidebook, which explores ‘The Socially Dynamic Organisation’ as a new model of Organisational Design.
I first started to share work around this idea in 2016 as part of #WorkingOutLoud, and established some of the core parameters of notion: an Organisation that moved beyond Hierarchy, which was ‘guided not governed’, which carried a ‘diversified strength’, and which did not become ‘breathless’ through change.
It was a logical and inevitable extension of my broader work around the Social Age: as our ecosystem changes, so too our Organisations must adapt, and hence it has become a central Organising principle of my own work since, alongside the pillars of Social Leadership and Social Learning.
But at first, it was a definition by exception, not detail: i described it primarily by what it was not, not by what is actually was. It was not ‘governed’, but the mechanisms of ‘guidance’ were unclear. It was not monocultural, but the mechanisms of diversity were clouded. It carried strength beyond the system, but the detail of what the alternative areas were remained unclear.
Since then i have iterated this work rapidly, through three major rewrites. The most significant was in 2018, when i spent some time in San Francisco, working with a number of the tech Trans-Nationals, exploring Social Leadership and the frames that it operates within. At that time i built out the Socially Dynamic Organisation frame, and used that to explore the ideas in more detail, including within practical Exec workshops to build out strategy.
There is nothing like application to ground or erode a seemingly good initial idea.
That work carried me forward until early late 2018, when i pivoted my own work around Communities to include the notion of ‘tribes’, essentially adding a new layer into the taxonomy of social structures, and edging my way out of what had been an increasingly complex trap, whereby i was forced to view Communities as structures of consensus: essentially i was trapped in the space of people coming together with shared value and purpose. The language of Tribes and Trust has enabled me to escape that: to recognise that a Socially Dynamic Organisation may still be culturally fragmented, but it is highly Interconnected as well. Essentially it can operate through it’s differences, not be constrained by them.
I’ve left it until now to publish this work more widely, because it is still far from perfect, and far from complete. But to me at least, it represents a new model of Organisational Design: a new model for how we conceptualise (and then build) our Organisations. But it is still an early exploration.
The Socially Dynamic Organisation Guidebook shares nine considerations and features of this new type of Organisation, but crucially i have held back from using the jigsaw, or a formalised model at this stage. The book is intended as a guided, reflective journey, not a detailed roadmap.
The final chapter does provide an overview, but still at outline level. And the first chapter is titled ‘This book is imperfect’, which takes me beyond the normal caveats of #WorkingOutLoud and into a full admission that the work does not yet paint a full picture.
But four years in i feel that i have some of the dynamics in place: the way that the Socially Dynamic Organisation will be highly interconnected, lightweight, adaptable by design, and multi-dimensional. I can now, at least in some parts, describe these things in the tangible language of skills and capability, engagement and constraint.
I will continue to evolve these ideas, and now i am finding increasingly that i can carry them into my practice, providing further data points and grounding.
But it is a sketch: our legacy Organisations, the ones we live in today, built around Domains and dominated by formal power, they are our Industrial legacy, and the structures of our own constraint. Our challenge is to visualise what comes after, then pick up a hammer and build it.